A Day in the Life of a VA Acquisition Academy SharePoint Developer

Rob Anderson and Juania Owens

For more than 10 years, the Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy (VAAA) has provided education, training, professional development, and VA Supply Chain Workforce Certifications for the VA and other Federal Government agencies.

Created in 2008 to educate individuals with the information that was lost during “the downsizing from the last decade and the loss of institutional knowledge resulting from baby-boomer retirements”, the VAAA has trained hundreds of thousands of Federal Government employees through its Acquisition Internship, Contracting Professional, Program Management, Facilities Management, and Supply Chain Management schools.

Since 2018, AMSG has provided technical and Microsoft SharePoint support within the Academy Operations Business Unit, helping the VAAA uphold their mission and vision to “serve the Veteran, the Federal workforce, and the taxpayer by providing the best-in-class training programs and establishing themselves as the Federal training academy of choice”. With over 250 courses and offerings and having been selected as a top 10 Learning! Public sector organization, the VAAA is certainly carrying out its intended mission.

The Academy Operations Business Unit, specifically, provides services through its Technical Employee Engagement Program (TEIP) that focuses on exposing VAAA staff to modern VA tools and solutions. Leading the way is Mr. Robert Anderson, a SharePoint Developer with 10 years of Federal Government Contracting experience and 15 years of experience with managing SharePoint Environments. Having started in 2019, when the Academy Operations was known as the Enterprise Shared Services (ESS) Division, Mr. Anderson’s job was to support our VAAA Client in improving its processes, modernizing the community, and strengthening its user community.

To achieve this goal, he devoted his time to learning about every VA technical group he could find and conducted internal meetings to discuss the VAAA’s needs for its Modernization and Process Improvement Initiative. He listened to their successes and lessons learned, and soon discovered opportunities that could help revitalize the Division’s antiquated processes and practices. He and his Modernization and Technology Team members created new relationships, and after several successful joint efforts with the VAAA Client and with the support of the ESS Director, kicked off their first Joint Modernization and Technology Team (JMTT) meeting.

Each Business Unit and Office within the Academy elected JMTT representatives, and within a few meetings, the JMTT proved to be an empowering and informative environment for the VAAA user base, and a safe space to discuss successes and concerns that impact the VAAA. As a result, the Academy Operations Division continues to host academy-wide JMTT Learn and Learn sessions featuring guest speakers from within the VA community.

Speaking on their successes and his daily responsibilities, Mr. Anderson recalls, “As a SharePoint Developer, I have always strived to provide solutions that integrate modern technologies with understandable controls and design. The VAAA offered a different challenge, how to modernize ESS and integrate our user base.”

Today, Mr. Anderson supports all the VA’s Microsoft 365 tools, including its commercial-off-the-shelf Salesforce, WordPress, Open Broadcast Software, and Adobe Creative Cloud products. He also provides support for his custom developed operational solutions that include CADX 2.0, the Budget Digital Ledger Tool, the Automated Course Catalog PDF Generator, and the SharePoint support ticketing system and extranet Digital Course Finder.

He and our AMSG Team currently service four times the number of requests since he started in 2019, and he estimates even more growth in the coming months. Requests include anything from permissions for SharePoint access to content creation and administration, and Salesforce reporting to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) support. Although his tasks vary by day, Mr. Anderson’s day can be summarized in four parts: reviewing his inbox for requests, organizing action items, and making time for lunch. He reserves afternoons for completing difficult tasks.

He starts by reviewing his calendar and emails for issues or requests that were received while offline. He checks for updates, such as infrastructure operational changes or software patch updates, that may impede his ability to complete assigned or outstanding tasks. To organize his daily action items list, he makes a note of any modernization updates, rollouts, or notifications that may impact any solutions that are in concept, development, or production phases.

He makes it a point to make time for lunch away from his computer to clear his mind and typically listens to low-fi music or sits in silence. These moments provide mental relief and a brief reprieve. In the afternoons after lunch, he tackles the complex tasks or attends ad-hoc meetings to round out his day. But before he clears out for the day, he makes notes to prepare for the following day’s tasks.

On paper this may sound a bit mundane, but Mr. Anderson doesn’t believe his time at the VAAA has ever been anything close to mundane. “The VAAA environment is constantly changing,” says Mr. Anderson. “There is always a task, a report, or a solution that needs to be developed.” His dedication, skills, and abilities are integral to the larger VAAA’s mission to provide crucial training and resources needed to modernize and educate our Federal Government workforce.